x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Joy Matthew's nostalgia for the Emirates

Joy Matthew spent four years in Dubai editing a Malayalam women's magazine. Then he quit to become a filmmaker - and his debut feature has just premiered at DIFF.

The director Joy Mathew.
The director Joy Mathew.

At nine years old, the Dubai International Film Festival has many returnees, some who came as first-time filmmakers and return as established, celebrated figures in the industry, others who received film grants and brought back the completed product. But in Joy Mathew, they have someone who first came to Dubai as an expatriate eight years ago, went back to his native Kerala and now returns with his debut feature, Shutter, which received its world premiere last Monday.

“I originally came here after my business broke and I worked as a journalist, editing a Malayalam women’s magazine,” says Mathew, who was a young actor himself in the 1980s, appearing in the acclaimed 1986 Malayalam film Amma Ariyan. “Then I moved to another magazine, and eventually there was an offer from a television company in Kerala.” Mathew, who says he briefly worked as an autorickshaw driver in Calicut after studying, ended up spending four years in Dubai. “Finally, I resigned and decided I wanted to do film.”

And Shutter, which was part of the festival’s celebration of Indian cinema’s 100th anniversary, touches on the experiences Mathew gathered as an expatriate, taking a satirical look at a group of Keralan labourers working in the Gulf.

“I like to call it a moral suspense thriller,” he says, adding that it features the story of a non-resident Indian caught in an embarrassing -situation.

As it turns out, the 2012 Dubai International Film Festival is the first time Mathew has returned to the UAE since he left to pursue his filmmaking dreams.

“Dubai is built by northern Keralans. They have been so helpful to our community, which depends on money from the Gulf,” he says. “I am grateful to be here. It’s an honour. I came here as a job-seeker, now I come as a guest.”